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Hammer Museum announces a big expansion on Wilshire

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Just in time for the subway’s arrival to Westwood

The Hammer is taking over space in the building nextdoor, giving it a presence on Wilshire Boulevard
Renderings courtesy of Michael Maltzan Architecture, unless otherwise noted

In another sign that LA’s art scene is booming, the Hammer Museum in Westwood announced this morning that it will undergo a remodel and expansion, taking over a neighboring tower to give the museum a new presence on Wilshire Boulevard.

UCLA bought the Occidental Petroleum tower last year, and it will use the top floors for offices—but the museum will get the bottom five stories for a big lobby and museum store, plus a new gallery in space that’s occupied right now by City National Bank. That means the Hammer will have a new entrance at the corner of Wilshire and Westwood.

Los Angeles-based architect Michael Maltzan will design the new spaces and “completely reimagine” the existing, boxy building. The Hammer still needs to line up funding, but the project is expected to wrap up by 2020. That’s four years before the subway’s Purple Line is scheduled to reach Westwood with a station on the Hammer’s block.

One of LA’s premier museums, the Hammer, which highlights contemporary art from 1960s and on, offers free admission to all of its exhibits and is home to the popular Made in LA biennial featuring local artists.

It has already begun renovations inside, making over its 25-year-old, third-floor galleries with new lighting and elevated ceilings. Those galleries will be unveiled to the public this weekend.

“It’s no secret that LA is exploding right now in terms of culture,” Hammer Museum Director Ann Philbin told Curbed. “We are now one of only a few art museums on the Westside and uniquely concentrated on contemporary art. It’s a good thing we are here as there is a hunger for culture and ideas everywhere right now.”

Expanded exhibition and collection gallery
The future museum store

LA is at the top of its art game right now, but much of the activity is centered in and around Downtown.

News of the Hammer’s expansion and remodel follows the wildly successful opening of The Broad right next to the Walt Disney Concert Hall. Hauser & Wirth opened a branch in the Arts District. The Main Museum of Los Angeles Art hosted its inaugural event in the fall. New museums are on the horizon, too. LA, or more specifically, Exposition Park, was chosen this month as the future home of George Lucas’ Museum of Narrative Art.

Over on the Miracle Mile, LACMA is planning a massive makeover that will knock down its modernist buildings for a fluid, Peter Zumthor-designed building spaning Wilshire.

“We’re really a young city culturally,” Philbin told the New York Times in March. “There have been pockets of a thriving art world since the 1960s, so it’s not a new thing, but it has become a much bigger thing. What’s evident to people now is that it’s here to stay.”

The future corner entry at Wilshire and Westwood; the existing Hammer building is seen in the background

Correction: The original version of this article erroneously stated that City National Bank had already moved out of its space on Wilshire Boulevard.